Disaster in waiting at Mumbai airport

A disaster is waiting to happen at the Mumbai airport, according to a CNN-IBN exclusive report.
CNN-IBN has learnt that a vital radar that can help prevent disasters is lying locked up, gathering dust, for the last two years.
The airport has witnessed several cases of near-misses in the recent past.

Some of the incidents reported are:

May 28, 2010: Near-miss as landing Jet Airways Boeing 737 encounters Indigo flight on runway.

April 19, 2010: Bhavnagar-bound Kingfisher aircraft aborts takeoff after GoAir lands on same runway

The two near-misses in the last two months are latest in a string of alarmingly close encounters involving aircraft at the Mumbai airport.

May 31, 2009: Air India aircraft and Jet plane escape major mishap after both given clearance for takeoff.

August 24, 2009: Two chartered aircraft take off almost simultaneously from Runway 27.

February 9, 2009: Near-collision averted between helicopter in President’s entourage and Air India flight.

Experts allege that despite many close calls the Mumbai airport is not addressing safety issues.

The vital Surface Movement Radar which is used to monitor ground traffic at the airport is yet to be installed. It was brought in 2008 and shockingly as sources point out the warranty has expired.

Without Surface Movement Radar ATC is blind to movements on the tarmac, and with traffic at saturation point human error is bound to creep in, especially during the monsoons to prevent runway incursions.

“With so much on-ground traffic, buses, aircraft, catering vans, etc. the number of near-misses, and near-collisions are common, and there is immediate and urgent need to address this issue,” says aviation expert Vipul Saxena.

Shortage of air traffic controllers is also adding to fears. The few experienced are already overworked.

The traffic is growing at 20 per cent a year but ATC is still severely short staffed and more than 250 acres of airport land has been encroached by slums. Space constraints have forced Mumbai airport to have intersecting runways.

Real relief can only come once the long-proposed Navi Mumbai airport that’s currently still stuck in bureaucratic tangles is finally built.

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